Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 1 June 2020 – Day 64

Introduction

On Monday 1 June 2020 which marked day 64 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported an increase in the number of confirmed cases to two hundred and three (203). The number of cumulative tests done stood at forty-six thousand and twenty-one (46 021). Of these, forty-five thousand eight hundred and eighteen (45 818) were negative. The number of recoveries remained at twenty-nine (29) and the death toll remains at four (4).

Methodology

Information contained in this report is derived from the following Forum Members: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP); Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR); Counselling Services Unit (CSU); Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR); Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights); Excerpts from reports generated by Community Radio Harare have also been incorporated into this report.

Emerging issues

General Updates

In Insiza, soldiers instructed shop owners to close their businesses before the stipulated time at Silalabuhwa Shopping Centre. It was reported that the Shopping Centre was chaotic and crowded as villagers were drinking alcohol and vendors selling their products without observing the required social distance. It was also alleged that a senior local government official had authorised the owner of 727 Sports Bar to open 8 am to 7 pm despite COVID-19 regulations which ban patrons from drinking in bars and nightclubs. In return, it was alleged that the official is given an unspecified amount of money by the bar owners.

Transport challenges continue to plague travellers nationally. In most cities and towns, bus stops and ranks in residential areas and city centres remain packed with workers trying to commute between home and work. The Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) observed that the commuting public is now forced to rely on open trucks for transportation to work. PAZ also observed that at most bus terminus on 1 June, ZUPCO buses were not sanitizing passengers, there was no social distancing in queues and in the buses.

It was also reported that private commuter omnibuses and pirate taxis are back on the roads even though they are banned under level two of the national lockdown. The commuter operators and pirate taxis are providing transport to residents who are sneaking into town centres in breach of the COVID-19 regulations. Some of the commuter omnibuses have resorted to attaching fake ZUPCO stickers on their vehicles to circumvent checkpoints. For travelling long distances, travellers resort to using long-distance truck drivers who in turn bribe police officers manning various checkpoints. The bribes range between USD 5 and USD 10 which can be paid up as R200 depending on the number of passengers.

Mandatory testing and quarantine

Reports indicate that three (3) flights from the Philippines and Namibia brought 223 returning citizens who are now in private quarantine facilities at Rainbow Towers Hotel and the Bronte Hotel. One hundred and eighty-two (182) who flew into Harare from Walvis Bay, Namibia, came on two flights, one with 100 passengers and the other with 82. Forty-one from the Philippines returned on a chartered Air Zimbabwe plane.

It was also reported that some returnees at Chinhoyi Training Centre alleged that they have not been tested for COVID-19 after being admitted for quarantine. More than fifteen (15) returnees at Chinhoyi Training Centre indicated that they have spent more than 14 days in quarantine though they have not yet undergone testing of COVID-19 as required. According to the COVID-19 regulations relating to mandatory quarantine, returnees should be tested on day 1, day 8 and day 21. Similar reports have been received from other quarantine facilities. It was alleged that returnees quarantined at the United College of Education (UCE) and the Bulawayo Polytechnic College are sharing buckets, crowded bath facilities, not observing social distancing during meals and have not been tested after being placed in quarantine since 16 May. Reports indicate that the ratio of quarantined returnees per bathroom and toilets are such that 14 people use one bathroom or toilet.

Assault

In Ardbennie, Harare, a group of approximately (9) anti-riot police officers assaulted people with baton sticks who were waiting for public transport opposite Puma service station along Adbennie road. The officers reportedly descended on people waiting for public transport and accused them of standing at areas prohibited for boarding public transport. The police officers also suggested that the people were not observing social distance. An estimated eight (8) people including passers-by were assaulted during the incident.

Arrests

It was reported that police officers in Gweru arrested four (4) people for defying the regulations of the lockdown by not wearing face masks. The arrested persons were detained at Mkoba 1 police station where they were later released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200. About five (5) more people were also arrested during a clash between police officers and illegal foreign currency dealers and vendors in Gweru CBD. The arrested persons were released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200 at Gweru Central Police Station.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 1 June 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault264Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists16Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests389Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Mvurwi
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza
Abductions3Harare

Court update

Commuter omnibus owners in Bulawayo, operating under the banner Tshova Mubaiwa Transport Co-operative Company filed an urgent application at the Bulawayo High Court citing President Mnangagwa, Minister of Health and Child Care, and the Commissioner-General of Police as Respondents. The Applicants are challenging the government’s decision that commuter omnibuses will only be allowed to operate if under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise.

In another matter, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) filed an urgent application at the High Court of Harare against the Minister of Health and Child Care in relation to the deplorable conditions and poor management of isolation and quarantine centres established by the Minister. ZADHR is petitioning the court to issue an interim order directing the Minister of Health to: ensure that returning residents and citizens are tested on the 1st, 8th and 21st days of their quarantine; house returning residents and citizens at quarantine facilities in a such a manner that social and physical distancing is maintained at all times in the boarding houses, dining rooms and other common areas. To this end, Respondent shall publish in the Government Gazette, a list of all approved quarantine facilities and the maximum number of persons to be admitted at those facilities with due regard to the available infrastructure and capacity to house the returnees; liaise with appropriate local authorities where the quarantine facilities are situated to ensure that they have continuous running water at all times, and functional, adequate ablution and bathing facilities; ensure that occupants of the quarantine centres are provided with hand sanitisers and soaps at all times; ensure that the quarantine centres are regularly disinfected with approved disinfectants; and ensure that the quarantine facilities are suitable for human habitation and have constant supply of running water.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

Conclusion

The Forum urges the government to improve the conditions in quarantine facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities and reduce incidences of escapes from the facilities.

Due to the shortage of transport nationally, it has been alleged that police officers are receiving bribes to allow private commuters and trucks to ferry people between cities. The Forum also calls upon the government to investigate these reports of corruption by police officers manning checkpoints nationally. To curb the transport challenges, the Forum calls upon the government to introduce adequate transport for citizens to allow them to commute using safe transportation.

The Forum is gravely concerned with the government’s failure to announce a review of the Level 2 national lockdown extension, per the President’s undertaking when the lockdown was extended indefinitely. The Forum reminds the government of the need to update the nation regularly, so that there is certainty on the steps government is taking.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)